When Madhya Pradesh denied entry to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, it was not without reason as the state government was aware of the impending crisis. Though it denied the firing on farmers who were protesting in Mandsaur initially, later it has admitted that six farmers were shot dead in the police firing.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tried to control the damage announcing a price stabilisation fund of Rs 1,000 crore and declared ex-gratia of Rs 1 crore to the kin of the dead and Rs 5 lakh to the injured.
The situation is getting out of hands for the Madhya Pradesh government as the protests are spreading to other districts — Neemuch, Ratlam, and Indore — where farmers are turning violent and setting public vehicles afire.
MP State Home Minister Bhupendra Singh, who had asked farmers to ignore microfinance loan repayments if they can’t afford few months ago, is now facing their new demand for a better Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their produce. Instead of working out for a better price for farmers, the police had opened fire on them and six lives had been lost. Though the government has ordered a judicial probe, the killings have left a deep impact among the farmers.
The problem lies with the populist loan waiver programs and both BJP and Congress should be held responsible for igniting ideas among the farmers that their loans will be waived off any way. With the UP government of BJP coming to power on the promise of loan waiver and implementing it, neighbouring states of MP and Maharashtra cannot remain silent. Even in Karnataka, BJP leader Jagdish Shettar demanded for farm loan waivers and threatened agitation against the ruling Congress government.
However, the populist measures are not bought by the Reserve bank of India which has refused to bring down the repo rates citing inflationary impact of such loan waivers in UP and elsewhere. Moreover, the loan waiver has become a luring carrot for leaders, which may engulf their own governments later or elsewhere. In fact, every small politician knows it but refuses to recognise it.
In Mandsaur, the farmers’ woes are entirely financial as minimum support prices did not see much hike due to increased production. The resultant indebtedness of farmers has also more to do with local credit avenues mushrooming in every village.
From rural cooperatives to microfinance institutions to local money lenders, these days loans are granted instantly to farmers who fail to repay them when their produce fails to fetch the expected price in the market. Even government’s MSPs are not satisfactory. The farmers are ultimately falling victims to indebtedness with rotating loans looming large on their heads.
Instead of suicides as in other states, MP farmers are legitimately hitting roads at least to protest but getting killed in police firings. Unfortunately, either way they are facing death.